Espresso-machine price leaves some steaming
Hundreds of espresso heads have waited, some for years, to buy the first home-use espresso machine from La Marzocco, the Seattle company...
Seattle Times business reporters
Hundreds of espresso heads have waited, some for years, to buy the first home-use espresso machine from La Marzocco, the Seattle company that supplied Starbucks' espresso makers before the chain switched to automated machines.
The La Marzocco GS/3 finally hit the market late last year, and it's everything they expected except for the price. After telling customers for more than two years that the machine would cost $4,500, U.S. distributor Franke catapulted the price to $7,500.
Franke Coffee Systems North America, based in Seattle, figures 70 to 80 percent of the 247 people on its waiting list will walk.
"These people have just had it," Mike Lanz, Franke's director of sales, said of those who waited the longest. When he takes their calls, "a lot of them are being really mean about it, and I don't blame them."
The increase came largely because of the falling dollar, Lanz said. La Marzocco is based in Seattle, but its factory is in Florence, Italy.
Stainless-steel prices are up, too, and the machine comes with a service contract, he said.
Bill Crossland, the La Marzocco engineer who designed the GS/3, said it works without special plumbing or electrical adaptations.
"It's really intended as a light commercial machine — catering and restaurants — and it can be used in the home," Crossland said.
The machine is so good that Scott Morell, co-owner of Café Javasti in Seattle, stopped going to work every morning for coffee after Crossland lent him a GS/3 last fall.
"It really is as good as you can get at your coffee shop," Morell said. "I was kind of relieved it's so expensive, because there won't be as many people having one at home."
Mark Prince, a coffee-industry expert in Vancouver, B.C., who is senior editor of CoffeeGeek.com, says the GS/3 is the best machine for home use but "it's hard to swallow the $7,500 price."
That's especially true when the next-best home machine, the La Spaziale Vivaldi II, is just over $2,000, he said.
The GS/3's biggest impact is the advances it drove for commercial machines, Prince said.
"It got other companies thinking about new ways to make better espresso machines."
— Melissa AllisonTidbits
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com
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